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Sustainability and Environmental Justice

Learn how Portugal's approach to sustainability and social equity challenges the core principles of mainstream economic theory.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Sep 3 – Dec 16

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base


Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Development & Inequality


Why study sustainability in Portugal?

Live in the European Green Capital for 2020: Lisbon, a city addressing carbon emissions and the impact of mass tourism through renewable energy technologies and social projects. Here, you’ll discover how Portugal’s approach to sustainability and social equity challenges the core principles of economic orthodoxy. You will gain firsthand experience learning about food waste and environmental education by volunteering with NGO´s such as Refood, Movimento ALP, and Banco de Bens Doados. On excursions to the Azores Islands, the coastal city Porto, and Spain’s stunning Extremadura region, you’ll compare conservation projects, sustainable agriculture production, resource management, and environmental good practice.


  • Live in Lisbon, a city that blends traditional heritage with high-tech innovation and progressive thinking.
  • Learn how policymakers are mapping alternative designs in green policies.
  • Travel to Porto, Douro, the Azores, Alentejo, and Spain’s Extremadura region.
  • Learn about Portugal's national fire plan to reduce forest fires.
  • Enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, exploring natural parks, and visiting ecological sites.


Previous college-level coursework or background in sustainability, environmental studies, economics, natural resources, health, environmental policy, sociology or other related fields, as assessed by SIT.

program map



Explore this autonomous nine-island archipelago in the mid-Atlantic with its intense natural beauty. The Azores and have become a popular tourist destination and a hub for eco-conscious design.

In São Miguel, the largest island, you will see smart approaches to sustainable tourism and climate change. Your excursion will reflect the values and principles of the program including low-emission transportation, sustainable catering, a circular economy for food, paperless management and other responsible practices. Enjoy a deep connection with nature while visiting thermal springs or hiking trails with breathtaking views.

The Extremadura Region & Alentejo

Study alternative energy technologies and sustainability systems in the Extremadura autonomous region of the western Iberian Peninsula. Learn how Spain uses renewable energy to drive economic growth and create jobs in this high unemployment area through ecotourism initiatives.

Walk on a 1st-century Roman bridge and visit the Alcazaba Arab fortress. In Cáceres, you will attend university lectures (accompanied/guided by university professors) and visit the oldest part of the city, used as a set location for the TV series “Game of Thrones.” You will also visit one of Spain’s best-preserved Jewish quarters.

The area with the highest olive oil production in Portugal is Alentejo, producing three-quarters of Portuguese olive oil. You will see how local producers are changing from traditional to sustainable production. Also, in Alentejo you can walk in Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visit the Guadiana River region where Alqueva Dam is located.

Porto and Douro Valley

Travel to the north and explore some of the most historic cities of Portugal known for their traditions. Learn how innovation is helping businesses to be more sustainable. In Porto, a city rich in history and stunning views, you’ll take in the blend of old and innovative. See the Serralves Park hall and visit the picturesque Cais da Ribeira and its iconic Luís I Bridge stretching across the Douro River. Departing from Porto, you will visit the Douro Valley, the largest area of mountain vineyards in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. Discover how farmers operate to decrease vulnerability and enhance their adaptive capacity.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Conduct an Environmental Assessment survey to evaluate environmental impacts on delimited neighborhoods. 
  • Compare different approaches to mass tourism and sustainable agriculture. 
  • Discuss the economies of Portugal, southern Spain, and the Azores using a theoretical and empirical perspective of the economic, environmental, and sociocultural sustainability impacts of bioenergy, biotechnology, and use of renewable resources. 
  • Outline Portugal’s sustainable strategy to preempt forest fire threats, improve firefighters’ performance, and develop forest intervention areas. 
  • Integrate Portuguese language skills into everyday communication. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Comparative approaches to sustainability and bioeconomy
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  • "The right to nature" and neoliberalism
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  • Environmental in/justice and health equity
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  • Urban regeneration in southern European cities
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  • Environmental best practices and sustainability
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  • Water-energy-food-ecosystem nexus approach
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  • Mediterranean bioeconomy: land and ocean

Comparative Sustainable Bioeconomy and Energy Resources

Comparative Sustainable Bioeconomy and Energy Resources – syllabus
(ENVI/EURO3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar uses Portugal and southern Spain as case studies for a critical reflection on the impact of bioeconomy and energy resources on economic growth and sustainability within a Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus framework of analysis. The course builds on understanding sustainability, growth, the circular economy, and Nexus concepts while allowing students to explore applications of these frameworks in practice. Portugal’s sustainability approach maps directions for alternative options in renewable energy sources, circular economy, sustainable tourism, and access to a sustainable urban environment. Portugal generates almost 60 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable energy. Its approach to sustainable tourism has been hailed as a model for economic development, and Lisbon was awarded the title of European Green Capital for 2020. Spain is the second most-visited country in the world, the world’s largest producer of olive oil, and is expected to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2030. Through field excursions, students compare different sustainability and resource use issues including conservation projects, sustainable agriculture and tourism, resource management and environmental good practice, use of renewable energy sources and impact on sustainable economic growth.

Environmental Justice, Advocacy, and Urban Regeneration

Environmental Justice, Advocacy, and Urban Regeneration – syllabus
(ENVI/EURO3005 / 3 credits)

In this seminar, environmental justice is used in a broad sense to refer to the distribution of and access to green spaces and green infrastructure, and the social relationships of production and power that shape fair and equitable access and distribution. Variables such as race, class, and location impact environmental in/justice and access to green spaces, forests, clean air, water, health, and other resources. The 1976 Portuguese Constitution recognized the “right to a healthy and ecologically balanced living environment” and the “duty to defend it,” But, only after the Framework Act on the Environment was passed in 1987 did environmental public policy become important to policymakers. Students will analyze the policies and politics underlying inequitable environmental policies and the resistance movements built to fight injustices in the areas of waste management, industry, energy, biodiversity, urban regeneration and territorial management. The focus is on the socioeconomic and health impacts of environmental injustice. During educational excursions, students will learn about major cases of environmental conflicts in Portugal and southern Spain. The seminar draws on theoretical and empirical frameworks from a plurality of disciplines including environmental studies, environmental science, urban planning, public health, cultural geography, social and environmental psychology and sociology to interrogate environmental policies and practices and examine their impacts on environmental degradation and the well-being of communities.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 3 credits)

This seminar introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools for gathering primary data, and the knowledge and skills that are essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals, which are necessary for completing an academic project in the cultural context of Portugal. The main emphasis is on the development of empirical tools and ethics of interactive research skills involving the collection of primary data. The seminar includes modules on sustainable research methods and qualitative and quantitative research methods for ethical decision-making in environmental studies. The seminar uses lectures and field assignments to prepare students to undertake field study in strict observance of research procedures. The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP), which is largely based on the data gathered from primary sources.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation that highlights the regional and cultural reality that can only be encountered during a study abroad experience. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP advisor — a local academic and/or sustainability or environmental professional. The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, field visits, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career.

Sample topics:

  • Bioeconomy and regeneration in Portugal
  • Operating and enhancing sustainable systems
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Fire management plans and strategies
  • National energy policy and the EU energy framework
  • Renewable energy investments and markets
  • Integration of renewable energy technology into existing infrastructure
  • Smart technologies for power generation and distribution
  • Impacts of environmental in/justice on neighborhood communities
  • Nexus of development, displacement, and environmental enhancement

Browse this program’s Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.


Portuguese Introductory I – syllabus
(PORT1003 / 3 credits)

This Portuguese Introductory I language course is designed to meet the needs of SIT students with minimal or no Portuguese language proficiency. The course focuses on oral expression, comprehension, structure, and grammar, and integrates the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) through a student-centered learning approach. Students engage in class activities and are encouraged to speak Portuguese to their language competence. The student’s learning is enhanced and reinforced through the utilization of audio and visual aids, regular field visits, and weekly tutorials. Course content focuses on grammatical structure, greetings, verb conjugation and tenses, regular and irregular verbs, prepositions, possessives, definite and indefinite articles, demonstrative pronouns, object pronouns, adverbs, indefinite pronouns, and negative, affirmative, and interrogative forms.

Portuguese Introductory II – syllabus
(PORT1503 / 3 credits)

The Portuguese Introductory II course is focused on developing the student’s communication skills in Portuguese. Special emphasis is dedicated to the understanding of spoken Portuguese both in formal and colloquial contexts, as participants will engage with a broad variety of native speakers including public officials. The course includes a variety of teaching strategies and approaches, such as lecturing, peer practice, in-class and outside-of-class interviews, field trips with preestablished assignments, songs, games, and videos of cultural and/or linguistic relevance. An effort is made to provide students with realistic situations where the language spoken is a tool, rather than an object in itself, encouraging its authentic and creative use. The field-based classes are carefully planned to provide students with the opportunity to interact with native speakers in a less controlled environment.

Portuguese Intermediate I – syllabus
(PORT2003 / 3 credits)

Portuguese Intermediate II – syllabus
(PORT2503 / 3 credits)

The Portuguese Intermediate I and II courses are designed to expand and reinforce student knowledge of more complex linguistic structures at progressive levels of difficulty. Student learning is enhanced and reinforced through the utilization of media such as newspapers, academic articles, and magazines. The course incorporates field experience and students are encouraged to research and report on topics related to the program theme. By the end of the course, students demonstrate ability to interact with native speakers who are professionals in their field of study, e.g., sustainability, development, or communications.

Portuguese Advanced I – syllabus
(PORT3003 / 3 credits)

Portuguese Advanced II – syllabus
(PORT3503 / 3 credits)

The Portuguese Advanced I and II courses are designed to expand and reinforce student knowledge of more complex linguistic structures at progressive levels of difficulty. Student learning is enhanced and reinforced through the utilization of media such as newspapers, academic articles, and magazines. The course incorporates field experience and students are encouraged to research and report on topics related to the program theme. By the end of the course, students demonstrate ability to interact with native speakers who are professionals in their field of study, e.g., sustainability, development, or communications.


Lisbon Accommodations

You will be staying in an apartment or student residence. Most placements are in shared rooms with two to three students per room. There will be a kitchen or kitchenette for you to prepare your meals, a washing machine in the building, and wi-fi. Apartments are about a 30–40-minute commute to classes via subway to campus. Students will have opportunities to engage with the Portuguese community through voluntary work, field visits, and a cooking workshop.

Excursion & Orientation Accommodations

Other accommodations during the program include apartments, hostels, and modest hotels.

Career Paths

Students on this program may consider career paths in various sectors including with:

  • Public policy

  • Advocacy

  • Public relations

  • Sustainable energy

  • Sustainable agriculture

  • Environment agencies

  • International development

  • Government and administrative institutions

Faculty & Staff

Portugal: Sustainability and Environmental Justice

Cátia Magro, PhD bio link
Cátia Magro, PhD
Academic Director
Joana Dionísio, MS bio link
Joana Dionísio, MS
Program Coordinator

Discover the Possibilities

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